New Article: The Americans (1961)

No, I haven’t written about FX’s Cold War drama The Americans. My latest article examines NBC’s Civil War drama The Americans, which ran for 17 episodes from January to May 1961. The series went through a tortuous development period beginning in 1959. All three networks announced plans to commemorate the Civil War centennial with specials and TV series but few of these programs ever materialized due to concerns about offending viewers and trouble lining up sponsors.

Black and white still from the opening credits of The Americans.
The Americans title card featuring both a Union and Confederate flag.

NBC thought it could avoid controversy by offering a TV series that covered both sides of the Civil War. The Americans starred Darryl Hickman and Dick Davalos as brothers Ben and Jeff Canfield. Jeff sided with the Confederacy when war broke out while Ben remained loyal to the Union. Episodes alternated focus on the brothers, with stories focusing on Ben and the Union one week, Jeff and the Confederacy the next.

The series was originally called The Blue and the Gray but apparently sponsors felt that title would upset the South. So the name changed to The Canfields. Eventually, the network decided to call it The Americans.

Dick Davalos as Jeff Canfield, who sided with the Confederacy.
Dick Davalos as Jeff Canfield, who sided with the Confederacy.

I’ve only managed to see two episodes out of 17 and unfortunately both starred Dick Davalos. My copy of one of the episodes is in terrible shape and missing about five minutes. I’m hoping to find a better copy soon. There may have been an unaired pilot episode filmed under the name The Blue and the Gray but I’m not sure. If anyone can confirm the existence of an unaired pilot, please let me know.

Please take a few minutes to read the full article and let me know what you think. If you remember The Americans, I’d love to what you thought of the show. Were you partial to the Ben/Union episodes or the Jeff/Confederacy episodes?

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5 Replies to “New Article: The Americans (1961)”

  1. I was about 14 and totally into civil war stuff–After so many years I would still like to a show or two—-I just assumed they had all been gone for years Is there any hope of obtaining one? thanks [email protected]

  2. I loved this show as a kid and keep hoping more episodes will turn up. I remember one episode in particular where, if I recall correctly, the Union is experimenting with new uniforms – I don’t recall why. But the uniforms are white and make the soldiers easy targets.

    Anyone else remember that one?

  3. Was 7 years old when The Americans came on and I was already reading comic books on the Civil War. I liked both characters and saw quite a few episodes. I remember the show about the White Uniforms, (I think it may have had something to do with the Battle of Balls Bluff, another about the two brothers running into each other in an abondoned plantation house during a thunder storm and seeing each other across the room when a bolt of lighting lit up the place, and a third about Ben being captured and imprisoned in Richmond. He and several prisoners managed to escape and they sang Dixie as they walked through through the town to give the impression they were Confederates.

  4. How did they treat Black people in the show and how did they handle slavery? I liked the show but do not recall that issue Thank you

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